Huntsman dropped out of high school to play keyboards for the progressive-rock band Wizard; he later earned his GED and returned to college to earn a B.A. in international politics from the University of Pennsylvania. Under the administration of President George Bush, Huntsman served as Deputy Assistant U.S. Secretary of Commerce for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. In 1992, Bush appointed Huntsman as U.S. Ambassador to Singapore at the age of 32 - making him the youngest ambassador appointed in the 20th century. After Clinton became president, Huntsman worked in the private sector until the second Bush administration.
Second Bush Administration and Governorship of Utah:
When President George W. Bush took office in 2001, Huntsman was initially rumored as a shortlister for U.S. ambassador to China (a position that ultimately went to comparative legal scholar Clark Randt). Huntsman served as a U.S. trade representative before running for governor of Utah in 2003. Huntsman received strong bipartisan praise for his fiscal management skills; in 2007, the Pew Center described Huntsman's Utah as the best managed state in the country.
Obama Administration and Presidential Candidacy:
When President Barack Obama took office in 2009, he crossed party lines by asking Huntsman to serve as U.S. ambassador to China - a position that Huntsman had unsuccessfully sought for years. Huntsman stepped down as Governor of Utah to accept the position, and served in that capacity for two years before stepping down to pursue a presidential bid. Regarded as a fiscal conservative with the strongest foreign policy resumé in the field, Huntsman was a formidable candidate on paper - but in the Tea Party era, the priorities of Republican voters can be hard to assess.
Views on Immigration:
Huntsman is, refreshingly, a moderate on immigration issues - and one that has a strong history of confronting his party's excesses. Huntsman has aligned himself with Texas governor Rick Perry on the issue of offering in-state tuition rates to the children of undocumented immigrants, and threatened to veto a similar measure when he was Texas governor. In 2005, he signed legislation allowing immigrant driver cards for undocumented immigrants who lack driver's licenses. He also supported Bush's 2007 comprehensive immigration reform proposal.
Views on Abortion and Same-Sex Marriage:
Huntsman supports a federal constitutional amendment banning abortion, but opposes revising the constitution to ban same-sex marriage. On a personal level, Huntsman supports civil unions rather than same-sex marriage, and has supported the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." It would not be an oversimplification to say that Huntsman is an orthodox conservative on abortion and a moderate on lesbian and gay rights. Despite his views on abortion and his strong record as a fiscal conservative, he has often, and somewhat inexplicably, been criticized as a "liberal Republican."
Views on the Religious Right and Scientific Literacy:
Huntsman has drawn fire from other Republican candidates for arguing that creationism should not be taught in public school biology classes. "I would expect my kids in science class to be instructed in those things that are somewhat quantifiable and based on thorough and rigorous empirical research," he explained. Later, following the first Republican presidential debate, he tweeted: "To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy." His pro-science views have attracted hostile attention from the Religious Right.
Views on the Second Amendment and Gun Rights:
Huntsman's strong history on Second Amendment issues solidifies his conservative platform. As Michael Brendan Dougherty put it: "Huntsman expanded the rights of Utah gun-owners, abolishing some concealed-carry restrictions and allowing for more transport of firearms on Utah’s roads. He even signed a bill that would grant small-game hunting licenses to children under 12. In Jon Huntsman’s America, once a child survives the first trimester, he’s well on the way to having a rifle in his small hands and extra money in his pockets. If this qualifies as moderate, why be conservative?"